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CA Drought: Big Sur 'Colorado' Fire Could Be Start Of Year-Round Wildfire Season

BIG SUR (KPIX) -- The rare mid-winter wildland fire that erupted in Big Sur over the weekend could become a more frequent occurrence in California, a San Jose State University professor warned Monday.

"Generally, we do have a wildfire season, but it's getting stretched farther and farther and pretty soon the two ends are going to connect," said SJSU Prof. and Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center Director Craig Clements.

He said that climate prediction models show that the state could become even drier in the future than it is now.

"So our fires are going to get bigger," Clements said. "Climate change has its fingerprint all over the drought in California, and so as we dry things out we have accumulation of dead fuels."

CalFire Spokesperson Capt. Chris Bruno agrees that the typical May to October fire season has changed in the last couple of decades.

"What we're finding is the traditional three to six month fire season that we were normally accustomed to -- now it's a six, eight, nine month fire season that we have or even year-round," Capt. Bruno said. "It made us restructure kind of how we do business."

The weekend's wildland fire, named the Colorado Fire, was sparked Friday evening and stood at 700 acres as of Monday night. CalFire reported that the wind, which fanned the flames when it began, continued to pose a challenge. Firefighters were able to get the fire 40% contained Monday, and strengthen fire lines.

But the coastal blaze caught both residents and firefighters off-guard, and concerned for what's to come for California.

Despite weeks of record-breaking rain last year the fire had more than enough dry fuel to jump Highway 1 toward the iconic Bixby Bridge.

Clements said San Jose State fire models predicted this week to be extremely dry with the absence of rain so far this year.

"So it makes sense when you have a big wind event, which we did and very, very dry fuels, even though it's in January, that is what's causing this fire," said Clements. "It's quite unique."

Although models show California becoming drier, he said a rainy season could make a fire season more manageable.

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